Brooklyn Industries founder Lexy Funk shares how she went from making bags out of old billboard material to running retail stores around the country.
00:07 Lexy Funk: My name is Lexy Funk, I founded and run Brooklyn Industries. We are a retailer with 14 locations and we started in 1998 making bags out of recycled billboard material. For many years we manufactured the bags and ran a factory in Williamsburg, Brooklyn. And then in 2001 we decided to open our first store and basically sell our bags and then our clothing through a retail store. And then slowly over the years, we've added one or two stores a year. And the premise of the brand is that we only sell Brooklyn Industries in our stores and online. And it's a vertical fashion company that is based on the idea of live-work-create which was the idea you can be creative and be artistic through wearing our clothes and also through our business model.
Why did you start Brooklyn Industries?
01:13 Funk: I started as an artist when I left college. Actually I did photography and I also did art and I met my business partner at an art residency in Upstate New York and we decided a year after we met to start a company because we were frustrated with always working at other companies doing freelance work and sort of trying to make ends meet and not being particularly successful and feeling like art is such a passion in our lives but why can't we bring art into business and business into art as opposed to having them be separated. So, the idea for the bags was really, can we make a really unique design product that is also a commercial product.
What has been one of the key factors to your success?
02:06 Funk: I think persistence is really a key. I mean, sometimes it's just keep doing it day in day out and I think one thing I was amazed at looking back at that period is why didn't stop and just take another job because there were parts of that time period especially when we were running the factory where we really had no money. I mean it's just... There was a couple of weeks I remember where we were waiting for checks, we didn't have any money in the bank account, we sort of borrowed from friends and family as much as we could and there was one week where we didn't have any food.
02:43 Funk: And I was like "This is really crazy." I could be a lawyer, I could work for a bank, I could have decided a lot of career choices other than being an entrepreneur in a startup business where the revenue model is pretty precarious. And I think what's interesting looking back is why didn't I just go get another job, like even in a coffee shop. And I didn't. So I think it just was in my mind at that time it just wasn't even an option which is interesting. You have this mind set that you want to do something and if you persevere it ends up happening.
03:23 Funk: So, I think that's the wonderful thing about entrepreneurship, that just the desire to do it. On the other hand, I think it's tremendously difficult and sometimes it can go swimmingly well and everything is great and then you can fall and have the falls and then pick yourself up again, but I think in general if you are the type of person who just has that spirit and who just doesn't want to work for somebody else or wants to create something that's uniquely different on your own, if there's no other option then it's a little bit like running a marathon, there's some point where you [chuckle] "Why am I doing this?" And yet at the same time you just have to persevere. So, that's an interesting sort of phenomenon.
ANDREW MACLEAN is the video editor at Inc.com. He previously worked at MediaStorm and did his graduate studies in video production at Syracuse University.
He can be contacted via email at: firstname.lastname@example.org.